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Title: Acts of Narrative Confession in Selected Fiction of Saul Bellow
Author: Hojjati, Leila
ISNI:       0000 0001 3580 1447
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2008
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This thesis examines selected fiction of Saul Bellow by problematizing the universal and static conditions of traditional narrative confession as well as its one-sided perception of reality. It analyses the concept of polyphonic confession, illustrating how Bellow's oeuvre shows a gradual movement from a monophonic mode of confessional discourse in his early fiction into a more inclusive, ethical, and polyphonic one in his later novels. Examining novels of Saul Bellow in the light of the literary and social theory of confession as developed by Mikhail Bakhtin and Michel Foucault respectively, this research argues that as distinguished from social and cultural contexts, the context of art opens up a new space for the emergence of a more dynamic and reciprocal mode of truthtelling in Bellow's writings. Chapter One initiates a dialogue between the Christian and Jewish context of confession, justifying the application of Foucault's Christian theory of confession in order to read Bellow's Jewish novels. Combining Bakhtin's theory of dialogism, carnivalesque, and aesthetic with Foucault's social and cultural theory of truth and power relationships, his theory of transgression, and aesthetic theory of communication, Chapter Two develops a combined literary-social theory of confession that accounts for the confessional reading of Bellow's fiction. Chapter Three links ~akhtinian theory of monologic discourse with Foucauldian arguments about the interrelationship between truth and authoritative power structures in order to examine the conservative and monophonic mode of confession in Bellow's three early short novels: Dangling Man, The Victim, and Seize the Day. This chapter argues that Bellow launches in these novels a model for argumentative confession, especially in the private dialogues of the protagonists with their doubles. Chapter Four blends the Bakhtinian concept of polyphonic discourse with Foucauldian theories of transgression, parrhesia, as well as truth and micro-power relationships in order to examine Herzog as a polyphonic novel. The chapter argues that Herzog's transgressive writings help him create a balance between social authorities and plural narrative voice. Combining Bakhtin's theory of carnival with Foucault's theory of transgression, Chapter Five develops a theory of confession which accounts for the polyphonic qualities of carnival confession in Humboldt's Gift. It argues that the novel's polyphonic and carnival free space provides the chance for Charlie and Humboldt to connect their desired truth with external realities. Chapter Six integrates Bakhtin and Foucault's theory of aesthetic discourse in order to illustrate a more polyphonic; harmonious, and creative mode of reality presented in Ravelstein. It argues that the distance between desired and authorized realities can be reduced when the two protagonists enter the confessional communication as equals and friends who feel responsible for and share concern and love for one another. The Conclusion illustrates the gradual creation of a more responsive, creative, and dynamic mode of polyphonic confession in Bellow's oeuvre. It concludes that it is more ethical and aesthetic to practice the discourse of confession in a dialogic, that is both monologic and polyphonic, rather than in a conventionally monologic style.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available